Saturday, 29 June 2013

People's Assembly: We've Been Here Before!

ACCORDING to the organisers well over 4,000 people attended the People's Assembly last Saturday throughout the day.  The organisers also claimed they brought together every organisation fighting and resisting austerity for the first time since the financial crash over five years ago.  They maintain that they have captured the energy, potential and hope of millions of people affected by austerity, it called for concrete action to be undertaken across the country. 
This, they say, includes:
A mass national protest at the Tory Party conference on 29 September in Manchester;
A day of civil disobedience on 5 November in every town and city across the country;
Local People's Assemblies to be established in every area possible;
A national demonstration in London in the new year.

In short yet more marching together, and inconclusive demos.  More opportunities for left-wing organisations to sell their newspapers. 
The organisers insist we now need to create an infrastructure that can support the local organisations and take forward the national initiatives that were launched at the assembly. To do this, we need your support. The People's Assembly are launching an urgent financial appeal to raise the funds to do this.
Please consider making a monthly donation, or a one off donation if you prefer. You can do this on the website here:

Many of the big names on the British left were there such as comedian Mark Steel, Caroline Lucas MP., Owen Jones, writer, and Ken Loach film maker.  It was also a 'dear Do'! with tickets at £8 and £4 unwaged.  Some asked how a movement of the grassroots could be built by the trade union bosses, and celebrities in the media and politics.  Other worries was the influence of the Labour Party in all this.
One lad called Ray, a veteran campaigner, got it right when he said:  'It's all talk and hot air'.  He continued: 
'What for?  To agree to go on another march?  It's what's been going on for 40 years.  I'm 71 in September...  Only radical action on the streets will change anything.'

But even there he's probably optimistic, for the riots of 2011 change nothing.  The thing is that inconclusive marches and demos like those already put on by the TUC disillusion people.  While street riots can often provoke a public reaction and that calls for more authoritarian measures.  Previous people's forums and assembles a decade ago eventually faded away.

The Neglected Castleton Railway Station

CASTLETON has been allowed to fall into decline for years as various buildings have been neglected or abandoned.  The original old library is still decaying close to the village centre, and some shops have been demolished.  There is a campaign group committed to save the old library building, but now concerns have been raised about Castleton station.

It was destaffed many years ago, and not soon after the roof tiles of the delightful old station building were savaged by thieves.  Then when the building had become 'structurally unsafe' the renovators moved-in to take down the servicable wooden bridge, and demolish the red brick station-building and build a car park in its place.  I actually acquired some ornate cast iron metal work from the demolishers to use as ornamental window boxes, otherwise they would have been lost forever in a skip.

Now, we learn that passengers at Castleton station are claiming they feel like 'second-class' travellers deprived of not only architectural features and aesthetic Victorian elegance on their station, but even any information over train delays.  Well, I can only think that they deserve everything they get, for the English people in Castleton and beyond with their notorious reserve, have allowed things to go from bad to worse throughout the decades.  What we are going to get is an endlessly ugly sameness throughout our land because of a dire lack of imagination as a people.

Friday, 28 June 2013


ON Saturday 29th June there will be a march and rally in support of 114 UNISON members who have already taken 5 days action and are about to embark on 4 more, in an attempt to bring their employer, Future Directions CIC, back to the table to re-look at the drastic cuts that have been imposed. The company, established by Calderstones NHS to deliver services at a reduced cost, took on the contract from Rochdale Council to provide supported living services in the Borough, knowing that they would be unable to maintain terms and conditions of staff. Cuts include losses to pay, removal of enhancements, reduced sick pay scheme and holiday entitlement. Nearly 100 unfair dismissal cases will be lodged for members this week.

The march and rally in Rochdale Town Centre on Saturday 29th June, will start at 11:00 am from the Butts. The route through the centre of the town is short and will be followed by a rally on the Butts, ending at approximately 12 noon. Further detailed information and a map will be available later this week. We urgently need volunteers who can steward the march and rally, who will be available from 10:00 am till 12:30 pm on Saturday. For more details, please contact myself or Karen Longmire at, or 07957 504 885.
The fight that this group of workers face today could be that of any union member tomorrow, and I hope that you will issue this appeal for support to our sister Unions in the region. The Branch will also need support in order to sustain action, and messages of support and donations to the strike fund can be sent to Helen Harrison, Branch Secretary, Rochdale UNISON, 45 Richard Street, Rochdale, OL11 1DU. Cheques can be made payable to Rochdale UNISON. 

U.S. Syndicalists Against Drones

MEMBERS of the Syndicalist Action Network (SAN) will join with others in actions of protest and
civil resistance against the killer drones of the United States
Central Intelligence Agency [the CIA].

Join us at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, 29 June 2013 outside the main gates
of the central headquarters of the CIA — at the 900 block of Dolly
Madison Boulevard in McLean, Virginia.

We will protest and oppose this federal agency's criminal involvement
with the use of the killer drones against people in Pakistan, Yemen,
and a number of other countries.

We will seek accountability for the war crimes committed by the U.S.
killer drone strikes.

Civil disobedience and resistance are being planned.


OVER 115 postal workers and members of the Communication Workers Union at the Royal Mail depot in Friarn Street Bridgwater are set to strike this coming Saturday (29 June 2013). The walk out is part of an ongoing dispute about job cuts and ongoing allegations of bullying from managers. An £800 lump sum payment to workers at the site is also still outstanding for previous changes that have been made to working practices. 

CWU Bristol Area Official David Wilshire said 'Workers at the depot believe Royal Mail has made no serious attempts to resolve the issues at the heart of this dispute and this is why strike action will go ahead'

There will be a large picket line on the day and photo and interview opportunities are available from 0700-0900 hours.
For further information contact David Wilshire on 07909 525740

Greater Manchester Police Probe Unethical Behaviour

GREATER Manchester Police (GMP) is looking into claims that it gathered intelligence in August 1998 on those attending the inquiry into Stephen's death.   The head of the National Black Police Federation, Charles Crichlow, has claimed he raised concerns about the 'outrageous' request with his superiors - but said it got 'swept under the carpet'.  He said last night that he spotted the memo while he was with the GMP in Rochdale in 1998. 

Yesterday the GMP has said it is taking the claims 'very seriously' and had launched the probes 'to fully explore the legitimacy of the use of any such tactics'.
Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley said: 
'GMP is aware of coverage in the media which relates to the public hearings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry that were held in Manchester in 1998. Concerns have been raised regarding a memo that was issued which is believed to have requested GMP officers to gather information on groups or individuals who were attending these hearings.'

Then we get the usual yarn from the Assistant Cheif Constable:
'Due to the length of time that has elapsed since then, efforts to locate this memo and any other related material remain ongoing. GMP recognises the need to fully explore the legitimacy of the use of any such tactics' and that 'we are taking these concerns very seriously and this matter will be fully investigated. In the meantime we will secure and preserve any information we find which may help any ongoing or future investigations. We understand that this is a very sensitive and emotive subject for all concerned and that a full investigation of the issues is necessary.'

Then we get the bland reassurances from Greater Manchester police commissioner Tony Lloyd welcoming the probes:
'Greater Manchester Police owe it to the people of Greater Manchester and, obviously, Stephen Lawrence's family, to get to the bottom of this.  It's important for GMP to establish exactly what happened.'

Added to which:
'Policing in this country has thankfully moved on since Stephen's death and the high standards we expect from police officers today make it all the more important for us to learn from the past and not to repeat its mistakes.'

Everthing is for the best now because things have moved on!

Battle of the Ebro: a 'Grotesque Gamble'!

WHEN, in 1963, my boss at the Casa Such in Denia, Alicante, bought a new wagon to carry the cans of butane gas to the villages of San Antonio the make of the vehicle was 'Ebro'.  It was named after the famous river in Aragón, where in 1938 the Battle of the Ebro was fought.  Next month, on the 6th, July, the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) is commemorating and celebrating the 75th anniversary of that battle at an assembly at Jubilee Gardens on London's South Bank.  There will be 'Guest Performers and speakers', and a social gathering from 2.30pm in the Camel & Artichoke at 121, Lower Marsh Street, London.

Yet, ought the IBMT to be 'celebrating' the Battle of the Ebro? 

After the collapse in Aragón during the spring of 1938, the republican government tried to reconstitute an army from the formations that had been pushed back into the isolated eastern zone.  This had the River Segre to to the west and the Ebro to the south, the republicans were lucky in that they had 18,000 tons of war material which had come over the French frontier between March and mid-June.  The call-up had been extended to the 'quinta del biberon' (baby's dummies call-up) of 16-year-olds, and their middle-aged fathers.

After the peace overtures of the pro-communist republican leader Negrin had failed, he obtain the support of the communists to seek to attract international attention by launching something heroic and that turned out to be the Battle of the Ebro.  In his book 'The Battle for Spain,' Anthony Beevor writes:
'This reasoning... contained several basic flaws... European attention was much more preoccupied with events in the east, especially Hitler's designs on Czechoslovakia' and '[t]here was no prospect of Franco changing his refusal to compromise, nor of Chamberlain coming to the aid of the Republic.'

It seems the military justification for the project consisted of a vain plan to recapture the nationalists' corridor to the sea and link up the two republican zones again.  Beaver writes: 
'[T]his was wildly optimistic and demonstrated that the government and the communists still refused to learn from their own disastrous mistakes.  The pattern was entirely predictable.  Even if the republican attackers achieved surprise, the nationalist armies, with their American trucks, would redeploy rapidly to halt the offensive.'

Clearly Negrin and his communist friends refused to see that another battle involving heavy casualties would damage republican morale, probably irretrievably. 

When it all ended in tears, the communists tried to blame General Rojo and the general staff, as usual these people, like Togliatti, cried 'sabotage and malevolent action' of others such as 'General Miaja and other commanders at the centre'.  And yet, Beevor writes as a military historian:
'The fact that the whole strategy had been agreed between Negrin and the communists, and the army had been commanded by a communist who refused to retreat, were of course ignored.  So was the fact that the whole plan had been ill thought-out. 

Beevor continues to illustrate this folly of the Battle of the Ebro:
'To attack a sector so close to the bulk of the nationalist Army of Manoeuvre meant that the enemy could counter-attack rapidly; and to choose to fight with a large river just behind your front line when the enemy had a crushing air superiority to smash your supply lines was idiotic; to refuse to pull back after a week when it was clear that you had no chance of achieving your objective was bound to lead to the useless sacrifice of an army which could not be replaced.  It was beyond military stupidity, it was the mad delusion of propaganda.'

Some communist party critics of the historian Anthony Beevor describe him as 'a Cold War Warrior', but the readers must judge for themselves.  What he write here seems perfectly plausible, and it often seems to me that many communists suffer from what the philosopher Wittgenstein call 'aspect blindness'.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Workfare Week of Action Against State Sponsored Slavery, 6th - 14th July!

The following briefing which we are publishing in full, has been received from the campaign 'Boycott Workfare'.

"When the Work Programme was launched two years ago, the government wanted everyone finishing it to be sent to do six months of forced unpaid work. But all mention of this punitive scheme has now disappeared: a powerful testament to the strength of your actions.

People are pushing back the spread of workfare: One provider has complained that it has 100 fewer placements each week in its area alone. In recent weeks, Argos and Homebase claim to have pulled out of workfare, Wetherspoons has followed them and Debenhams are wobbling. The government has been ordered to reveal the list of workfare exploiters but keeps appealing: it is terrified that the public response will spell the end for workfare.

Now is the time to keep pushing.

On 6-14 July, the week that the poverty profiteers of the workfare industry will be gathering for their annual convention, let’s remind them there’s a lot to be worried about!

Call an action in your town or city: A walking tour of shame, surprise visits to your least favourite workfare exploiters, flash mobs, a chain gang… whatever sounds fun to you!

Order copies of our know your rights leaflet and get them to the people who need them!

Take part in daily online actions targeting those who profit from workfare.

Whatever you plan, tell us and we’ll help spread the word. Boycott Workfare can help with the costs of props, printing or travel, so tell us if that would be useful too! info[at]boycottworkfare[dot]org

Let the workfare profiteers know: If you exploit us, we will shut you down!

Food Fraud From Saffron to Champagne

ON a beach Goa, in the 1990s, I was sold some fake Saffron by a native claiming to have brought it from Kashmir; I was of course aware that the best Saffron comes from Kashmir.  I had smelled the sample before buying another in a sealed container, when I got back to the hotel I realised I'd been had and the spice smelt of nowt.  Fortunately I met the native again at a market in the Hindu part of northern Goa, and gave him a good bollocking in front of his mates.  Of course, people have to make a living somehow and one always takes a chance in countries like India.  What may be of concern is the industrial nature of food fraud now taking place in western countries. 

In today's New York Times there is a report of a vodka distillery being raided in the lush countryside at a farm called Little Moscow in Great Dalby.  There tens of thousands of litres of counterfeit spirit were distilled into genuine vodka bottles with almost perfect labels to be sold a corner shops around the England.  The fake Glen's vodka look real enough but analysis showed that it was spiked with bleach to lighten its colour, and it contained high levels of methanol, that can cause blindness.

Regulators say that the horse meat scandal in the UK earlier this year was only the tip of the iceberg and that legitimate companies can get taken in in the murky world of food fraud.    Mitchell Weinberg, president and chief executive of Inscatech, a company that advises on food security says:  'Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic - in every single country where food is produced or grown food fraud is occurring.'  He added: 'Just about every ingredient that has even a moderate economic value is potentially vulnerable to fraud.'    Saffron would be particularly vulnerable because it is more valuable than gold of the same weight. 

Illegally fished and contaminated shellfish often finds its way to fish markets, and when I was in Croatia during the Balkan war in former Yugoslavia there was a thriving black market in fish.  Only recently the owner of a fish and chip shop in Plymouth, Devopn, was fined for selling a cheaper Asian river fish called panga as cod.

Shaun Kennedy, a professor at the University of Minnesota, reckons 10% of food that people buy in the developed world is adulterated.  Mr. Kennedy says:  'Mostly the perpetrators are not intending to cause anyone harm - that would be bad for repeat business - but often they don't understand the potential impact.'  In some cases cheap products are added to genuine products to increase profit margins.  Vegetable oil goes inot chocolate bars, or pomegranate juice, wine, coffee, honey or olive oil is adulterated with water, sweeteners or cheap substitutes.  Food experts say that engine oil is among the substances found in olive oil. 

In a weeklong food fraud crackdown last year, the French authorities seized 100 tons of fish, seafood and frogs legs whose origin was wrongly labelled; 1.2 tons of fake truffle shavings; 500 kilograms of inedible pastries; false Parmesan cheese from the US and Egypt.  Other fake items found by Wandsworth Council were two boxes of fake Durex condoms, in convincing packages, and a bottle of counterfeit Bollinger Champagne.

With a fake food it seems the more you look the more you find.

George Ferguson's Ideas for Bristol

BRISTOL MAYOR, George Ferguson, has had high praise from the media and even enlightened anarchists for the way he has handled his last few months in office. George Ferguson was the dignitory who was urged to attend the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair earlier this year, and was doused in coffee by someone.  The organisers of the bookfair asked the culprit to leave, and seemingly apologised to George.  It seems that he always said he would not hide away in City Hall and he has been as good as his word.

Recently he issued his vision for Bristol for the next 5 years, and one local journal, the Bristol Post, encourages us to read it saying:  'He is a real visionary, an architect for a new look Bristol.

This report continues to praise him arguing 'His description of a remodelled Temple Meads and Brunel Mile complete with poets' quarter is inspiring. As are his hopes for a new Dutch House and acquiring the title of "water city".'

The report adds: 
'In what are challenging economic times he shone a positive light into the distance.  He accepts he may not be able to promise all of these things he mentioned but he has at least imagined a brighter future and given us all cause for hope.'

Mr. Ferguson said:
'We are still in the very early stages in terms of planning but we have been talking to various organisations. Like everything at the moment, this is just an experiment but if it is successful then we would be looking at making it a permanent feature.  The original idea was to launch the scheme during the Big Green Weekend in June and then take it from there.  This would be about creating an atmosphere in the city centre, rather than just banning cars.  What we want is for people to come into the city and enjoy themselves.  They have been doing something similar in Bordeaux for several years and it has proved to be a huge success. Bordeaux on a Sunday is a fantastic place to be and it would be great if we could recreate that fantastic atmosphere.  Sundays in this country have become the same as any other working day and what we want to do is try and create something a little bit different.'

Last Sunday the scheme was first put into practice on the streets of Bristol.
We must await with interest the outcome.
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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

How the police infiltrated 'Class War' and Direct Action Movement'!

IN an article in today's Guardian newspaper, it was reported that the police body the 'National Domestic Extremism Unit' (NDEU), is currently monitoring by surveillance techniques, intercepts, some 9,000 people who they have deemed 'domestic extremists'. The police have confirmed that many of the people held in the NDEU database, have no criminal record. Moreover, the term 'domestic extremist' has no legal basis in English law and has been completely invented by the police authorities. The disclosures about the nature of spying in Britain, has come at a time when it has also been revealed by the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, that CCHQ have been monitoring global phone and internet traffic under 'Project Tempora'. 

The government says that there is always a balance to be struck between protecting civil liberties and privacy as well as protecting the security of people in this country. One can perfectly understand this, if the people being monitored, were people who had fallen under suspicion, but this is not always the case. We know from past whistleblowers who have worked for the security services, such as MI5, that the organisation spies on British citizens. Former MI5 officer, Michael Bettaney, claimed that MI5 "cynically manipulated the definition of subversion". Cathy Massister, also an MI5 officer, revealed that the organisation spied on CND and trade union leaders and former MI5 officer, Miranda Ingram, claimed that "counter espionage is the acceptable face of MI5 and that working in 'F' branch, means spying on one's fellow citizens and engaging in activities of dubious legality."

The following piece which we are publishing, has been taken from Ian Bone's blog. It concerns recent revelations about the infiltration of political groups by police officers working within the 'Special Demonstration Squad' (SDS). It is an excerpt from  'Undercover' by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans.


Thanks to Chris Mitchell for this excerpt from ‘Undercover’ by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans:

'As Black prepared to start his covert mission, senior officers in the SDS were deciding on his future undercover role.  They were constantly working out which political groups needed infiltrating and which officers would make suitable spies. Initially, Black was lined up to become an anarchist.  At least three SDS officers had already been embedded in anarchist groups in the early 1990s.  One was in a small anarchist group called the Direct Action Movement (DAM), which had existed since 1979. Its associates believed capitalism should be abolished by workers organising themselves at the grassroots level, a political philosophy known as anarcho-syndicalism dating back to the late 1890s. One confidential Special Branch document states that a detective constable who worked as an SDS spy "successfully" infiltrated DAM between 1990 and 1993.'

Another group of interest to the SDS was the better-known Class War, which achieved some notoriety after it was set up in the 1980s.  Anarchists linked with Class War produced a newspaper of the same name, styling it Britain’s most unruly tabloid.  At its zenith, it was reputedly selling 15,000 copies per week.  It provoked a lather of indignation from the right-wing tabloid press, which was enraged by the publication’s tongue-in-cheek promotion of violence against the wealthy.  One front-page headline suggested that the newly married Duke and Duchess of York were ‘Better Dead Than Wed’, while the birth of Prince William was greeted with ‘Another Fucking Royal Parasite’.  A third showed the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher with a hatchet buried in her head.

A regular feature was the ‘hospitalised copper’ page – a photograph of a police officer being assaulted. ‘We loved that. But it was done with humour, so even though it was violent, it didn’t come across as psychotic violence,’ says Ian Bone, Class War’s loudest advocate.  There was an element of pantomime about the group – in their ‘Bash the Rich’ demonstrations, supporters were invited to march into affluent areas of London such as Kensington and Hampstead.

Bone, a wiry sociology graduate with small round glasses who was once dubbed ‘Britain’s most dangerous man’ by the press, said later that no rich people were actually ‘bashed’‘but it felt good walking down there. We gave a lot of abuse and shouts and they did cower, a few of them, behind their curtains.’  The SDS viewed Bone and his friends as considerably more sinister. The unit posted at least two undercover police into the group.

'One was in place in February 1992 when he had a meeting in a London safe house with David Shayler, the MI5 officer later jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act after leaking details of alleged incompetence in the secret services.  Shayler had at that time been assigned to investigate whether Class War posed a threat to British democracy.  The SDS officer supplied intelligence to the Security Service, and had become an official MI5 informant, designated the code number M2589.

According to Shayler, the ‘peculiar arrangement’ in which the SDS officer lived the life of an anarchist for six days a week, returning only occasionally to his friends and family, had ‘affected the agent psychologically’.
Shayler recounts:
‘After around four years of pretending to be an anarchist, he had clearly become one. To use the service jargon, he had gone native.  He drank about six cans of Special Brew during the debrief, and regaled us with stories about beating up uniformed officers as part of his “cover”.  Partly as a result, he was “terminated” after the 1992 general election.  Without his organisational skills, Class War fell apart.’

According to Black, the true story was a little different. He says the SDS officer in question was a ‘top end’ operative who served the unit well. During the encounter with the MI5 officer, he acted the part of a coarse anarchist because he had little time for Shayler, who was perceived to be a ‘desk wanker’ – though Black concedes that ‘some MI5 desk officers who came out to talk to us were superb and we had a very, very good relationship with them’. A second SDS officer was later sent into Class War, but it became apparent the group was fading out. Rather ignominiously for the anarchists who wanted to tear down the state, the SDS concluded they could no longer justify spending money to infiltrate them.

Hence, in 1993, when Black was due to begin his life as an anarchist protester, the plan was suddenly changed. Black was disappointed; he had spent months perfecting his persona as an anarchist. ‘It was all based around the fact that I was a half-German anarchist with tenuous connections to the Baader-Meinhof group. It sounds ridiculous when you say it and it’s hard to imagine that it would stand up to scrutiny, but it would have,’ he says. ‘I used lots of elements of my own life to ensure it came across realistically.’

Instead, weeks before he was due to be deployed, he was called into the office by the head of the SDS. ‘The boss pulled me in and said:  "This anarchist work you’ve been doing, absolutely spot on.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody work so hard on their cover. First class. Now you can fucking forget all about it because you are not going into the anarchists. We’ve got something else in mind".’

Cyril Smith Our Answer to Silvio Berlusconi!

Former RAP Editor, John Walker, joins NORTHERN VOICES

IN the current edition of Northern Voices (No.14) a former Editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP), John Walker, leads with a report on 'Sir Cyril Smith: Our Role in His Downfall!' This account documents those parts of the minority media and independent press that have struggled over the years to put facts of what was really going on into the public domain. Even now it is believed that not everything has been revealed and the nature of a cover-up and those involved in it to protect Cyril Smith has yet to come out. In the end Sir Cyril Smith in his political and sexual appetites begins look like Rochdale's answer to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.

John Walker founded RAP in the early 1970s together with his friend and colleague David Bartlet. RAP was published on Spotland Road in Rochdale for over 10 years and in the end had a print order of 7,500 copies. John later worked for the Labour Research Department in London and has occasionally written for Private Eye. He is now an author on the Northern Voices' Blog and researched the nine-pages that composes 'Cyril Smith's Spanking Memoirs' in NV14.  Interestingly, unlike some on the NV Editorial Panel, he has history of being associated with political anarchism and has rather been more main stream politically while being journalistically close to the Private Eye school.  Though there have over the years Northern Voices has had many writers who would not identify with anarchism, and a few such as Paul Arnold and Jason Addy have been on the editorial panel, they have mainly been political campaigners while John's journalistic roots in alternative reporting go back decades.

Also in NV14 there is an interview with blacklist protester George Tapp, conducted in May by Barry Woodling at the Salford Royal Infirmary, after he was injured in a road rage incident on a picket at the Manchester City ground on the 15th, May. Tameside Eye breaks with a story about the blacklist and Harold Walker, the ex-President of Ashton Trades Council and a former member of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour, who rose to become Baron Walker of Doncaster and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. More news from Salford, Burnley, Manchester and Tameside.

Today, as the Tate Gallery in London has an exhibition that finally gives recognition to Salford artist Laurence Stephen Lowry, Northern Voices cultural correspondent Chris Draper selects his 'Six O' the Best Northern Artists', quoting John Ruskin famous retort to Whistler:
'I have seen and heard much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face!'

Debbie Firth quotes from Rochdale author Trevor Hoyle's book 'Rule of Night' (1975) to begin her comment on the local Council's attempts to restore Rochdale town centre. The now disgraced Rochdale politician, Cyril Smith wrote in his autobiography 'Big Cyril' (1977)'They call Rochdale the town with the clean face and the dirty neck. The clean face is W.H. Crossland's magnificent Victorian Gothic town hall ...' and 'the dirty neck is the surrounding ring of slums now thankfully being cleared'; in last Sunday's London Observer at the culmination of her review of the book 'Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59' Catherine Bennett wrote:
' “Though the centre of Rochdale is rather fine,” this champion of the working man (Richard Crossman) wrote on a byelection visit, “the rest of it is the usual ghastly Lancashire town, with its slummy streets running up and down the hills.” They would soon be wiped out.'

Here too in NV14 is the long awaited review of the northern historian David Goodway's book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian thinking and writing from William Morris to Colin Ward' by Derek Pattison considers the degraded nature of the term 'anarchist' in the English political lexicon which according to Mr. Goodway always 'attracted scorn...' in England, and yet mysteriously it still exists in society, like the seed in Ignazio Silone's original novel 'The Seed Beneath the Snow' still survives perhaps secreted (by the peasants) in the intestines of a mule were the police can't find it.  In England it is hard to be grown-up and an anarchist at the same time but Mr. Goodway points to some decent and sensible figures, like Colin Ward and William Morris, who managed to achieve this.
The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale with a review by Derek Pattison of Dave Goodway's book 'The Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: from William Morris to Colin Ward', Northern Voices can be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Blacklist Support Group at Glastonbury

Glastonbury Festival will be hosting the public premier of the new film:
 'Blacklisting 2013 - the workers strike back'
Venue: Speakers Forum Tent, Green Futures Field
Time: 6:30pm, Thursday 27th June 2013

Followed by Q&A with the film director Shaun Dey from the Reel News and Dave Smith (Secretary Blacklist Support Group)

The documentary features:
Ricky Tomlinson, Len McLuskey, Paul Kenny (GMB), John McDonnell MP, Michael Meacher MP, John Hendy QC, Professor Keith Ewing, Sean Curran (solicitor for High Court legal claim)
Plus interviews with blacklisted construction workers and environmental activists including:

Frank Morris (Crossrail), Helen Steele (McLibel - spied on by undercover police), Steve Acheson (Fiddlers Ferry) and dozens of others.

The film covers blacklisting on the Olympics, Crossrail, the Select Committee investigation, High Court legal claims, Local Authorities banning blacklisting firms from public contracts, the role of undercover police and the ongoing campaign of civil disobedience to expose the scandal and win justice.

Any media organisations wishing to review the new film:
Notes to Editors:

Speakers Forum is a stage where the political debates take place at Glastonbury (it attracts huge crowds) - speakers this year include Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Eavis.

Blacklist Support Group (BSG) is the grassroots campaign led by blacklisted workers themselves.

BSG is the organisation taking the High Court claim against Sir Robert McAlpine for conspiracy.

It is BSG legal cases that exposed the role of the police.

BSG are the organisation that have lodged a complaint to the IPCC and IPT about collusion of undercover police and security services in blacklisting. 
Ricky Tomlinson will also be speaking about the Shrewsbury Pickets Justice Campaign and blacklisting at Left Field Stage - Saturday 1:30pm
Blacklist Support Group




Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Breast is Best Down South

BREAST-feeding is more fashionable down South than up North, according to new figures for 2012-13 reported in The Observer last Sunday. These figures suggest that in 2012-13, 327,048 women were not breast feeding their baby at all by the time they had their six to eight week check-ups. That represents just under half of all maternities. This is the first time breast feeding has fallen since the Department of Health began to collect and releasing the statistics in 2004.

Top five areas -                                           
Haringey Teaching PCT.......... 94.7%      

Wandsworth PCT................... 92.2%    

Lambeth PCT......................... 92.2%    

Westminster PCT.................... 91.5% 
Camden PCT.......................... 91.0%

Bottom five areas -
Hartlepool PCT.................... 39.4%

Knowsley PCT..................... 44.3%

Blackpool PCT..................... 51.0%

North Tees PCT.................... 51.9%

Liverpool PCT...................... 52.0%

The Observer journalist, Daniel Boffey, reports on a woman, Claire Jones Hughes, who was challenged by fellow diners in a cafe that she should be more discreet when breast feeding her four-month-old daughter. Mr Boffey adds 'this was [in] affluent, liberal Brighton' not among the natives of the North. Another customer backed Claire up saying: 'get into the 20th Century', and later Claire took a stand on the internet organising a 'flash-mob' of 60 mothers who took to the streets and fed their young-uns under the town's clock tower.

It's strange isn't it that today it is the posh southerners that believe 'Breast is Best' and flaunt themselves in public as the breast milk flows and the multitude lactates? I'm old enough to remember after the Second World War, when the Proletarian mothers up North used to do the same thing on the 17 Bus. Not only that but my wife, I and our six-month-old son, when in Spain in March 1964, shared a train carriage with Spanish soldiers bound to serve General Franco in Ceuta and other Spanish passengers on the then 24-hour journey it took to crawl from Albacete to Algerciras, and we all laughed and joked as the red wine and potato omelet were passed round the carriage as our son suckled on my wife's breast like a young goat. Children in Spain at that time were still young enough to be on the breast at six months old. Indeed, there were reports in some parts on the country that kids up to school age would still sample their mother's breast milk.

About that time in the 1960s, while boys in Spain would stop playing football to grab a quick mouthful of their mother's milk, the newly affluent middle-class women in England were putting their children on the bottle as soon as they could.  For them the bottle became the new wet-nurse for the lower-middle-classes, but now it is the other way round and studies show that affluence in an area is a strong indicator of whether breast-feeding is taken up.  The tendency is also for white women to breast-feed less than those of minority ethnic groups.  Southwark and Lamberth, London boroughs with big ethnic minority communities, have the third and forth highest propotions of women who continue to breast-feed after two months, 81.8% and 76.6% respectively.  Yet, in Hartlepool Councillor Cath Hill, who is involved in children's services, says that while she regards breast-feeding as 'the most natural thing in the world, in Hartlepool breast-feeding is seen as unnatural and abnormal'.

There's nowt so queer as folk!

Lord Freud's bedroom tax warning

THE Government has threatened to withdraw or restrict housing benefit subsidy to councils which 'inappropriately' reclassify properties for bedroom tax purposes. 

In a letter to council chief executives, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said there have been cases of councils redesignating properties without reducing their rent to reflect a loss of a bedroom. Lord Freud said he expects 'the designation of a property to be consistent for both housing benefit and rent purposes'.

The letter stated:
'Blanket redesignations without a clear and justifiable reason and without reductions in rent, are inappropriate and do not fall within the spirit of the policy. “If it is shown properties are being redesignated inappropriately this will be viewed very seriously.'

The Department for Work and Pensions suspects properties are being re-designated inappropriately it will commission an independent audit to 'ascertain whether correct and appropriate procedures have been followed'. Lord Freud said redesignating properties without reducing the rent would lead to incorrect housing benefit subsidy claims being submitted to the DWP.

The letter stated:
'Where it is found that a local authority has redesignated properties without reasonable grounds and without reducing rents, my department would consider either restricting or not paying their housing benefit subsidy.'
It added that the DWP has no objections to re-desigations where there are good reasons, such as where a property has been adapted to cater for a disabled person’s needs, but said the designation should be consistent for housing benefit and rent purposes.

Under the bedroom tax, social housing tenants of working age deemed to have spare rooms have their housing benefit cut by £14 a week on average. The policy is intended to save around £500 million a year. The DWP has decided not to define a 'bedroom' for the purposes of the policy, saying instead that it is up to landlords to 'accurately describe the property in line with the rent charged'. This has left open the possibility of landlords reclassifying properties as having fewer bedrooms to enable tenants to avoid the penalty. 
Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: Rule #76. Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies. 
Sylvia Wilson 
Coordinator: Homes Under Threat (HUT National Network)

01282 604749


Councils seek powers to tackle land hoarding

LOCAL authorities have welcomed the Labour Party proposals for extra powers to tackle the hoarding of land by developers. 
In a speech on Saturday, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband hit out at housebuilders he accused of sitting on land to get a better deal; he raised the prospect of granting new powers to councils to penalise developers that don’t proceed with schemes despite having planning permission. 

Councillor Clyde Loakes, vice chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) said: "At a time when housebuilding is still failing to keep up with demand, we would support any policy which strengthens local authorities' ability to respond to the housing needs of their areas. 
'We have been clear that the planning system is not the problem. Instead we need to find a way to unlock stalled sites, address the lack of liquidity in the finance markets and tackle the shortage of mortgages available for first-time buyers. Councils want to see developments which they have given planning permission to brought forward. Where there are legitimate reasons for developers struggling to get building work underway, local authorities will always be keen to work with them to overcome any obstacles. New powers to curb land-banking would be a useful option where developers are stalling sites for no reason other than to maximise their own profits.'
Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: Rule #76. Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.
Sylvia Wilson, 
Coordinator: Homes Under Threat (HUT National Network)
01282 604749


ON Saturday 29th June there will be a march and rally in support of 114 UNISON members who have already taken 5 days action and are about to embark on 4 more, in an attempt to bring their employer, Future Directions CIC, back to the table to re-look at the drastic cuts that have been imposed. The company, established by Calderstones NHS to deliver services at a reduced cost, took on the contract from Rochdale Council to provide supported living services in the Borough, knowing that they would be unable to maintain terms and conditions of staff. Cuts include losses to pay, removal of enhancements, reduced sick pay scheme and holiday entitlement. Nearly 100 unfair dismissal cases will be lodged for members this week. 

The march and rally in Rochdale Town Centre on Saturday 29th June, will start at 11:00 am from the Butts. The route through the centre of the town is short and will be followed by a rally on the Butts, ending at approximately 12 noon. Further detailed information and a map will be available later this week. We urgently need volunteers who can steward the march and rally, who will be available from 10:00 am till 12:30 pm on Saturday. For more details, please contact myself or Karen Longmire at, or 07957 504 885.

The fight that this group of workers face today could be that of any union member tomorrow, and I hope that you will issue this appeal for support to our sister Unions in the region. The Branch will also need support in order to sustain action, and messages of support and donations to the strike fund can be sent to Helen Harrison, Branch Secretary, Rochdale UNISON, 45 Richard Street, Rochdale, OL11 1DU. Cheques can be made payable to Rochdale UNISON.

Unison tells says collect Bedroom Tax arrears!

UNISON is advising its members to co-operate in collecting rent arrears resulting from the bedroom tax or risk putting their jobs at risk.

The union on 4 June issued a circular to its local government branches across Britain.

The circular said some union members working in arrears recovery are likely to have difficulties because of the bedroom tax and said branches of the union should request revised targets from employers.

However it said:
'It is…vital to ensure that Unison members are advised, that if they are employed to administer part of the arrears recovery process, that they should follow the instructions of their employer and that they should be advised that they are placing their continued employment at risk if they choose not to fulfil their contract of employment.  This applies whether that is the sending of reminder letters, issuing possession proceedings, applying to the magistrate’s court for a possession order, attending court, instructing bailiffs or attending with bailiffs in order to secure possession.’

The circular makes it clear Unison is opposed to the bedroom tax and is campaigning for it to be repealed.

Under the bedroom tax, social housing tenants of working age deemed to have spare rooms have their benefit reduced by an average of £14 a week.


Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: Rule #76. Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies. 
Sylvia Wilson

Coordinator: Homes Under Threat (HUT National Network)

01282 604749


Teacher's Strike


TWO teaching unions are taking action this Thursday in the North West. Many schools have already announced their closure but there will be picket lines throughout the region and marches and rallies have been arranged as follows:-


Assemble at the Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG. The march will leave at 10:00 AM.

The rally will take place between 11:00 AM and 12 noon at the Piccadilly Hotel, Portland Street, Manchester.


Assemble at the Pier head, Liverpool, L3 1BW. The march to leave at 10:30 AM.

The rally will take place at St George's Hall, St Georges Place, Liverpool, L1 1JJ between 11:00 AM and 12 noon.


Gather at The Assembly Pub near the Corn Exchange from 11:00 AM. The march will start at 11:30 AM.

The rally will take place at the Flag Market with refreshments provided afterwards in the upstairs room at the Black Horse.

We are still awaiting details of the march. Gather at Chester Town Hall Square at 10:00am.

The rally will take place at the Queen Hotel, City Road, Chester, CH1 3AH from 11:00 AM until 12 noon.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Legend of Tarifa at Cervantes in Manchester

A debut performance of The Legend of Tarifa by Manchester-based writer Natasha Smith will take place this summer on 24 July at the Cervantes Institute on Deansgate in Manchester. 

Blending poetry, music, song and dance, The Legend of Tarifa is a tale of magic and mermaids and a young man’s quest for eternal love, inspired by the passion of Flamenco and Andalusia. 

The Legend of Tarifa is written and produced by emerging writer, Natasha Smith, who’s currently studying for a masters under Jeanette Winterson, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. 

The original music score was composed by Gillian Menichino, who is doing a PhD in music at the Royal Northern College of Music. The dancers are from Manchester Dance School, the Danceworks. 

Having lived in Tarifa for eight years, the town’s magical bohemian quality inspired Natasha to write The Legend of Tarifa
'I’m fascinated by the enduring power of fairytales so I wanted to see if I could recreate that with a modern twist. A mermaid story was a logical choice for me. When you live by the sea for so long, it’s impossible not to be inspired by it. By mixing poetry with music and dance, the aim is to create a really unique performance that appeals to a wide audience of different cultures. I wanted to bring a slice of Spain to an English audience.'

The composer Gillian Menichino jumped at the chance to be part of this project.

'The moment Natasha described the idea behind the poem I knew I wanted to be involved. Spain is so culturally rich and I know so many people, who just like me, are fascinated by this country. I loved the idea of creating a piece of music that invokes the vibrancy of its culture and brings it to a Manchester audience,' she said.

As a Spanish school whose remit is to promote Spain around the world, the Cervantes Institute is the perfect venue for this event. 
The performance will begin with Gillian’s music, which is interwoven throughout the poem. The orchestra includes violin, double bass, flute and Spanish guitar. The performance also features an authentic Flamenco singer and photographic slideshow.

¿Te ha gustado esta entrada? ¡Compártela!
Information and bookings on:

Tel: 0161 6614201

Edward Snowden and 'Hobson's Choice'!

THE Obama administration is putting pressure on the Russian regime to hang onto the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Caitlin Hayden, a bit of a boss for the National Security Council (NSA), has asked the Russians not to let Snowden leave its territory, and suggested that if Snowden gets away it would set back relations between President Obama and the Putin regime.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s foreign minister, speaking in Hanoi, said it was considering Snowden’s asylum request but did not know where he was. He said:
'I cannot give you information about that. We are in contact with the Russian government, but this specific information about this precise situation of Edward Snowden, we cannot give it to you right now, because we don't have it.'

Senor Patino read out what he said was a statement from Snowden, in which the whistleblower compared himself to WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, currently on trial in the US for 'aiding the enemy'. Snowden apparently said:
'It is unlikely that I will have a fair trial or humane treatment before trial, and also I have the risk of life imprisonment or death.'
For their part the Russian officials claim they lack the legal authority to detain Snowden. 'The Americans can’t demand anything,' human-rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told Interfax, saying that as long as Snowden did not leave the Moscow airport’s secure transit area, he was not on Russian soil and could not be seized.

The latest news is that Edward Snowden’s whereabouts are currently unknown after he failed to get on an Aeroflot flight the Russian airline said he was booked on from Moscow to Havana. It has been assumed that he was heading via Cuba for Ecuador; Quito’s foreign minister Ricardo Aroca said yesterday the country had received an asylum application from him. But amid farcical scenes the plane full of journalists – and presumably representatives of various governments – took off for Cuba without him. One reporter tweeted a picture of Snowden's empty chair.

On Sunday, with much of the world’s attention captivated on Snowden’s attempts to span the globe in pursuit of asylum, the NSA director Keith Alexander said that Snowden’s disclosures of widespread US surveillance on phone records and Internet communications caused 'significant and irreversible damage' to the US and its allies.

Since then a senior Obama administration official who would not provide his or her name told reporters late on Sunday that Snowden’s presumed travel plan undermined the whistleblower’s stated intent to tell the American people about broad government surveillance.

'Mr Snowden's claim that he is focused on supporting transparency, freedom of the press and protection of individual rights and democracy is belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen: China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador,' said the official, who did not note that the US was simultaneously attempting to secure the cooperation of China and Russia.  And he added:
'His failure to criticise these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the US, not to advance internet freedom and free speech.'

The trouble is in the real world when one takes on the super powers like Mr. Snowden has it becomes a bit like 'Hobson's Choice' picking and choosing between the devil you know and t'other buggers.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Cough-up pay-off! says Sex Victim's Mum

What more is there to know about sex scandals in Rochdale?

THE Rochdale mum of one of the victims of the sadistic ring of sexual groomers has asked that the shamed former council boss Roger Ellis be made to repay his over £76,000 redundancy pay-off.  This call follows the release of yet a further critical report into the scandal in which Mr Ellis stands accused of a 'woeful lack of professional curiosity or indifference' in face of a tragedy of tormented teenage girls being corralled like cattle to service certain ethnic men in the borough. 

Roger Ellis declined to comment when the Rochdale Observer approached him at his home in Littleborough earlier this month.  The Rochdale Council claimed it cannot demand that the payment is returned because it is a 'statuary payment'

The mother of one of the girls told the Rochdale Ob.:
'It makes me angry that he got this money and be made to pay it back.  The council turned a blind eye and did nothing about it.  My daughter is still struggling with her life.  She did not get a lot of help... (and) MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee found the council was "inexcusably slow" to realise that "widespread and organised" grooming of children was taking place on its doorstep.'

This story is only the latest in a history of scandals that have shocked people in Rochdale.  As I write the latest issue of Northern Voices carries a story by John Walker, a former editor of the old Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP), that reveals more about the scandal of Sir Cyril Smith, Liberal/ LibDem MP for Rochdale 1972-92, who had a perverse penchant for interfering with young boys in care, that began in the 1960s and went on throughout much of the last half of the 20th Century.  Again the authorities did not seem to do their job and seemingly closed their eyes to what was taking place.  More recently in the Castleton area of Rochdale questions have been raised in one neighbourhood about the possibility that there has been grooming of a geriatric in order to acquire certain benefits, and both the local Adult Care and Social Services at Middleton have been contacted.  It is understood that none of those who raised there concerns about this case have yet received acknowledgements form the person dealing with this matter at the Middleton office of the Adult Care Services.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Hot Money & Turkey's Brave New World

AS the glass towers and shopping malls begin to dominate the historical centre of Istanbul, it is now becoming questionable as to whether the projects that gave rise to the uprising in Taksim Square are financially sustainable.  Two weeks ago (6th, June 2013), Landon Thomas Jr., in the International Herald Tribune wrote:  'It is not often that the rock-throwing street protester and the seasoned bond investor reach a powerful economic insight at more or less the same instant.'

The worry is that the so-called 'hot money' that has been flowing into Turkey from investors after high-yielding assets, and financing all these malls and skyscrapers, are almost all short-term loans and that they could just as easily ditch the country.  In 2013, Turkey will need $221 billion of financing from outside investors, and most of this will be in short-term loans. 

Preparations are now underway for commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923.  In response to this Mr. Erdogan's government has announced a $400 billion public works program that equals over half the size of the $770 billion Turkish economy.  Most of these are big projects that will have a highly visible impact on Istanbul, which is precisely what is pissing-off the protesters:  planners are after a third bridge spanning the Bosporus at a price of $3 billion; a third airport, designed to be the world's largest, at a cost of $10 billion; and an Istanbul financial centre to compete with Dubai and London. 

Some commentators are now comparing Turkey to the situations that prevailed in Ireland and Spain as the euro crisis hit the European Union.  Richard Segal, a credit analyst at Jefferies investment bank in London, has said:  'This looks like a huge debt bubble'.  He also said that Turkey was more vulnerable than other emerging markets pumped up by hot money in so far as domestic factors, like the possibility of riots might lead to political unrest, which would encourage investors to look for an exit, and the possibility of an increase in interest rates in the United States could reduce the flow of funds to emerging markets like Turkey. 

Today, Tim Arango, in the International Herald Tribune reports that some of the liberals who have supported Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past are now deserting him and his Justice & Development Party, owing to the violent government crack-downs on the demonstrations in the streets. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sylvia Wilson comments on Queen's Birthday Honours

FYI HUTTIES…  My opinion: How crass that folk like Max Steinberg has been recognised (probably by some of his high placed cronies - allegedly) as worthy of a CBE for services to business and the community… (how Liverpool has faired through his reign is anyone's guess) regardless, he is only doing the job he was employed and paid to do. His M.O. as an "A1 climber” and his rise to the higher echelons of power has been swift, but not so productive… From a “glorified accountant” in the Housing Corporation, to Chief Exec of Elevate, (latterly known as Regeneration Pennine Lancashire Ltd) he made a “pigs ear” of the several areas under Elevate leaving all of the areas in decimation through demolition, boarded-up properties, shut down places of work, empty churches and lost communities... and with no new build during the c. ten years of HMRI to speak of during his term, (in the former Elevate areas) to show for the millions spent, except on plush offices, fancy cars, expenses for traipsing about the country attending conference after conference and his trademark of expensive “undertaker suits…!  

If anyone deserves the Queens award, it should be those who have been brave enough to fight to save their homes, work, church and communities whilst holding down full time jobs and running a family life, not those who are “patted on the back” for doing and being paid for government jobs…! 
Of the hundreds of heroes I know and have worked with over the last 12 years, every one of YOU should receive the highest accolade possible, you have shown true grit in the face of adversity… BRAVO, ALL OF YOU!   
 Sylvia Wilson

CBE for Riverside’s Max Steinberg

Riverside Group Board member and Liverpool Vision chief executive, Max Steinberg, has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours, for services to business and to the community in Liverpool.

Max was appointed to the Riverside Board on 1 April 2009. He became the Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision in July 2010 and led Liverpool’s presence at the Shanghai World Expo that year. He is now preparing to host the 2014 Festival of Business in Liverpool. He is Chair of the European Institute for Urban Affairs at Liverpool John Moores University.

Max has held a number of senior posts delivering economic regeneration, including the Housing Corporation’s Director of Investment and Regeneration in the North and the Chief Executive of Regenerate Pennine Lancashire Ltd, one of the largest economic development companies in the UK.

Norman Potter: Dissident Anarcho-Designer

ENGLISH folk reputably tend to over-cook their vegetables but somehow manage to end up with a politics that is nothing if not half-baked. This is particularly the case among the English anarchists where one always feels one is residing with the runt of the political litter, and recent research into English anarchism would bear this out since it appears that half of the so called English anarchist movement are employed as civil servants or teachers on a State stipend, or alternatively have been stuck on state benefits (see Martin Gilbert's interesting posting on this Blog: 'Washing dirty Anarchist linen in public' 4th, Oct. 2012). 

The Northern historian, David Goodway, has written:
'... anarchism - or left libertarianism ... is a long-established political position and ideology, associated with a substantial body of necessary, radical thought.  In other countries this is taken for granted and intellectual respect is paid to anarchism ... but it has never been in Britain and the other Anglo-Saxon nations.'

For this reason many lower-middle-class English anarchists live double lives with 'subterannean' identities and often use so many aliases they must forget the names they were christened with when they were born.  Herbert Read said:  'In calling [my] principles Anarchism I have forfeited any claim to be taken seriously as a politician, and have cut myself off from the main current of socialist activity in England.'

And yet, for the journalist, the designer or the artist in this country it may be positively an advantage to be labelled 'an anarchist'; in so far as one has no obvious party political bias to uphold or party-line to follow.  Herbert Read survived and prospered despite his anarchist connections and David Goodway hasn't done badly as an 'anarchist historian'.  It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, to read an article this week in the International Herald Tribune by its distinguished design critic, Alice Rawsthorn, on an exhibition in Bristol inspired by Norman Potter and assembled by Susanne Kriemann entitled 'Norman Potter, a heroic rogue'.

The Arnolfini Exhibition:
Susanne Kriemann: Modelling (Construction School)
Saturday 04 May 2013 to Sunday 07 July 2013, 11:00 to 18:00
Free →

Norman Potter was a designer and poet who set up the Construction School for experimental design in Bristol in the mid-1960s.  In his book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow', the historian, David Goodway, referred to Potter in his chapter on the famous anarchist art critic Herbert Read wrote:
'Potter ... an anarchist from his teens who has been described as "the English Rietveld" - the reference is to the great Dutch furniture-maker and architect, Gerrit Rietveld - point[ed] out how much Read's work and example had meant to him, especially as a young man.'

As for the artist Susanne Kriemann, her works look at specific examples of documentary images, from early photo history to surveillance cameras, and how they shaped our understanding of reality. With playful and inventive moments, the artist suggests a reading of pictures that asks for their meaning in the present. 

For the exhibition at Arnolfini, Susanne Kriemann develops a new series of work that respond to the history of the Construction School in Bristol. The history of the Construction School has been extensively researched by designer James Langdon, who provided the original material for the exhibition. The Construction School existed from 1964 to 1979 as part of the West of England College of Art and Design (now UWE) and was an attempt to establish an experimental design school, similar to the Bauhaus and the HfG Ulm, in a local English context. The Construction School’s history is closely bound to the career and concerns of its founder Norman Potter, an anarchist and practitioner on the margins of mid-twentieth century English design culture. Potter resisted the increasing emphasis on specialisation in design education and worked to encourage practical collaboration between disciplines. Susanne Kriemann’s exhibition will look at materials from the Construction School archive and their legacy of protest and change for today. 

The exhibition by Susanne Kriemann is organised by Arnolfini in connection with a series of events about the Construction School, initiated by James Langdon in collaboration with Spike Island. At Spike Island, Langdon will present a performance of a play by Norman Potter, In:quest of Icarus, and a purpose-built space for the archive of the Construction School.

The exhibition is closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays).

The graphic designer, James Langdon says:
'I think Potter's image is very heroic ... [h]is workshop at Corsham and his teaching in Bristol were defined by their being so unlikely, and requiring such conviction and energy to bring into existence.  It was very bold to attempt such a radical and uncompromising program in a provincial English context.'

That is the difference between the kind of artistic anarchism represented by Norman Potter as opposed to the typical English political hanger-on one might meet, the former is bold and committed, while the latter is often furtive and sly. 

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale with a review by Derek Pattison of Dave Goodway's book 'The Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: from William Morris to Colin Ward', Northern Voices can be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Bristol Radical History Event

BRH mob,

A meeting next week:

Date: Thursday 27th June
Hydra Books, 34 Old Market St, Bristol, BS2 0EZPrice: Donation
Gifford Hartman

Supply Chains in Capitalism Today: From Foxconn to Wal-Mart

One of the forms in which the working class exists today is at the various nodal points along global commodity chains. Global production is based on a system of “factories without walls,” where increasingly components are manufactured using an inventory-less subcontracting system that races around the globe looking for the “leanest” costs of production – especially cheap and compliant labor. Yet these just-in-time chains are vulnerable and this presentation identifies the nodes where struggles offer the greatest possibility for solidarity to spread down supply chains – and across oceans and borders. The presentation will show the links between bread riots worldwide in 2008, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy shutdown of the Port of Oakland, California in November, 2011.

Gifford Hartman is a writer and activist from California, USA.

See you there....

Bristol Radical History Group

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

International Protest over Turkish Crackdown

GLOBAL unions have called for two days of protest -- on Friday and Saturday -- in response to state violence, and in solidarity with demonstrators in Turkey. 

If your union is holding an event as part of these days of action, please let us know using our new online form, here:

Your event will appear on LabourStart's home page for your country. 
For example, you can see details of the Friday demonstration in London on the home page of LabourStart for the United Kingdom, here:

Meanwhile, early this morning, our online campaign reached an important milestone: we've now sent over 20,000 messages from trade unionists in 150 countries to Prime Minister Erdogan. 

Please spread the word in your union -- let's make this an even larger campaign! Click here to send your message:

Thank you! 

Eric Lee:  Labour Start 

Postal Workers' Reject Privatisation

POSTAL workers have said no to privatisation in a consultative ballot, and now a prolonged industrial conflict may follow.  The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has announced the results of a national consultative ballot of 112,000 postal workers asking the following questions: 
Do you oppose the privatisation of Royal Mail? YES 96%

Do you support the boycott of competitors mail? YES 92%

Do you support the CWU Pay claim? YES 99%

Do you support the policy of non-cooperation? YES 92% 
(The Ballot papers were collected, counted and verified by the independent scrutineer Popularis). 

Bristol Area CWU Official David Wilshire said:
'The workforce does not support the government or Royal Mail on selling the company. The company is flourishing in public ownership as the recent doubling of profit proves.' 

David went on to say:
'Postal workers are not going to sacrifice their souls for a so-called 10% stake when they know their jobs’ pensions and conditions are once again under threat. It’s time for serious national negotiations to find a solution that can really align the interests of all parties. If this cannot be found then prolonged industrial conflict looks inevitable.' 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Risk to Homeless in Welsh Ruling?

A recent ruling in North Wales, which found that Housing Benefit should not be paid to a night shelter, has led to similar cases throughout the country. While local and national government consider their next steps, the issue must not get in the way of helping people off the streets, argues Jacqui Mccluskey, Director of Policy & Communications at Homeless Link. 

A night shelter is not a home, so went the argument behind recent judgement in Anglesey, therefore it should not be subsidised by Housing Benefit. Of course it is true that night shelters aren’t permanent homes. They don’t pretend to be, but they do offer a vital lifeline for some of the most excluded people in society - and many of them rely on income from housing benefit to provide that support. 

Now that other local authorities are following in Anglesey's footsteps, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact this will have on local emergency provision. 11 local councils have already withdrawn some or all payments to night shelters, or they are insisting on modifications to services. From council to council there is a wide range of interpretations of what should be paid and for what service. This has inevitably raised the question of what will be done in those areas to ensure that there is still provision both for emergency and longer term accommodation to ensure that rough sleeping does not rise. 

Whatever the answer, given the different types of emergency accommodation available – from winter shelters on church floors to year round No Second Night Out projects – the local impact could be devastating even before the challenges we expect to see under the monthly assessment structure of Universal Credit.

In our policy briefing on the issue we highlight the actions that central and local government must take if we’re to avoid an unintended rise in rough sleeping in the areas affected:

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) must urgently clarify the national position and communicate this to councils.  DWP also needs to communicate whether night shelters will or will not be exempt from Universal Credit reforms.  Local authorities must avoid suddenly withdrawing funding from services, especially if there is no alternative emergency accommodation in place.

Above all, what this issue highlights is the fundamental need both for secure long-term funding for effective emergency accommodation, as well as accommodation that provides people with a secure base that they can call home. 

Jacqui Mccluskey manages Homeless Link's policy, campaigning and communications functions, as well as the Project Director for Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM). 
News item from Sylvia Wilson on her HUT Newsletter.

Strike at 'One Housing Group'

STAFF at One Housing Group will carry out two three-day strikes, the Unite union has confirmed. 

A total of 41 union members out of 49 to respond to a ballot opted for industrial action.  Staff will strike from 19 to 21 June and from 3 to 5 July. 

The dispute centres on the 15,000-home association’s plans to cut pay for around 200 care and support workers from next February. 

Unite said staff are facing average cuts of £2,000 a year and some salaries will decrease from £30,000 to £23,000. 

Nicky Marcus, regional organiser at Unite, said the cuts were ‘appalling’ given that the association’s surplus on supported housing contracts nearly doubled from £700,000 in 2010/11 to £1.3 million in 2011/12.

A spokesperson for One Housing Group (OHG) said the changes were necessary to enable the social landlord to retain contracts in a difficult market.  She added that 90 per cent of the affected staff have agreed terms and said OHG is confident the strike would not disrupt services.  OHG also said 80 members of staff will have their pay increased. 

The union is angry the cuts follow an increase in OHG chief executive Mick Sweeney’s salary by £31,000 to £176,000 last year. 

OHG refused to explain why in November it said it did not ‘recognise’ the £176,000 figure the union quoted for Mr Sweeney’s salary, only to then publish the figure in its accounts.  It would also not explain why OHG quoted the lower figure of £150,075 in Inside Housing’s 2012 salary survey.

 News item from Sylvia Wilson on her HUT Newsletter.

Scottish Housing Association to pay bills

EAST Lothian Housing Association (ELHA) has announced it is to help pay the ‘bedroom tax’ for its most at risk tenants. 

Following the introduction of the Underoccupancy Charge, more commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’, ELHA has developed an Assistance Scheme to help tenants affected by the changes. The Scheme, known as the ELHA Assistance Scheme, or EAS, will see arrears caused by underoccupancy charges written off for qualifying tenants. Alistair Sharp from the Govan Law Centre (GLC) said he hopes other housing providers consider adopting the model.

The EAS is designed to avoid conflicts with the Association’s allocations policy, and also cases of severe hardship. For example, where a couple require separate bedrooms for medical reasons or because of a disability, the Underoccupancy Charge calculation does not consider an extra bedroom essential, whereas ELHA’s allocation policy does – so a tenant could be told that they have to pay the Charge, but if they then applied to ELHA for rehousing to a smaller house, that request would be refused because the Association would not consider a smaller house to be suitable for their needs. 

The EAS contains 'Standard' and 'Discretionary' grounds on which charges can be written off. To claim, tenants need to demonstrate that they have been unsuccessful in an application for Discretionary Housing Payment, and that their circumstances are covered by the Scheme, but otherwise no lengthy application or assessment process is involved.

The East Lothian Housing Association Chief Executive, Martin Pollhammer, said:
'The so-called bedroom tax is wrong and should be withdrawn – it is as simple as that. But at the moment, it exists, so we have to deal with it, we cannot just ignore it. We feel that the EAS is a balanced and measured approach to helping our tenants deal with its worst effects, but it is also useful to us – firstly in preserving the standards we have in the way we assess the minimum amount of space a household needs, but secondly, trying to collect payments from people who patently have no means to pay them is also a waste of our time, money and resources, so is not in our best interests as a charitable organisation.'

Alistair Sharp from the Govan Law Centre added:
'Although we are campaigning for no evictions because of, and ultimately the abolition of, the "bedroom tax", we very much welcome ELHA’s approach – it is more than just a step in the right direction, it shows an organisation with a commitment to the wellbeing of its tenants, and especially to those made vulnerable by the bedroom tax. We feel this is a model that other housing providers in Scotland should consider adopting.'

News item from Sylvia Wilson on her HUT Newsletter.

Landlord Action say deductions ‘will not work’

LANDLORD Action has expressed concerns for both landlords and tenants over plans to deduct Universal Credit payments in order to recoup rent arrears.  The landlord-led organisation said the whole system is flawed and needs to be looked at much more closely before being rolled out. 
Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, said:
'The new system is a big worry to landlords and tenants. At present it is at a council’s discretion to choose to make payments directly to a landlord and not via the tenant. We know that it is only the minority of tenants that do not pass on housing allowance but we have worked with many landlords that have stepped away from the sector as a result.  As more tenants struggle with the new system, fewer landlords will feel confident enough to rent to this sector, creating an even greater gap between supply and demand of social housing.  What’s more, docking a tenant’s Universal Credit when they are already in a vulnerable position is not going to solve the problem. Most tenants are not refusing to pass on payments because they want to keep them, but because they can’t manage financially. From a landlords point of view, five, 10 or even 20% of a tenants Universal Credit payment would be a minimal and lengthy process towards paying off even one month’s rent arrears.  We need to stop tenants getting into arrears in the first place, and the only way to do this is with direct payments to the landlord. Our experience tells us this is what the majority of both landlords and tenants would prefer.'

News item from Sylvia Wilson on her HUT Newsletter.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Manchester Royal Exchange: 'Too Clever By Half'


A Royal Exchange Production in association with Told by an Idiot:

by Alexandr Ostrovsky
Directed by Paul Hunter
Designed by Laura Hopkins
The Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square, Manchester
Wednesday 10 July – Saturday 17 August

ANARCHIC larger-than-life version of Alexandr Ostrovsky’s 'TOO CLEVER BY HALF' bursts on to the stage of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Wednesday 10 July to Saturday 17 August.

This new production of the prolific Russian playwright’s best-known comedy is presented by the Royal Exchange in association with the internationally acclaimed theatre company Told By An Idiot (* see Notes For Editors). It follows the overwhelming success of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Royal Exchange, Christmas 2011).
Charming, ambitious, smooth-talking liar Gloumov is determined to climb to the top – and he doesn’t care how he does it, or who he steps on to get there. Backstabbing, greed, and some wonderfully odd characters combine with the Idiot’s anarchic energy to create a comedy that is seriously funny, surreal and physical. Made especially for the amazing Royal Exchange theatre space, it promises to be truly spectacular, and the perfect summer show for all the family.
Told by an Idiot director Paul Hunter takes the helm for this production. His previous work with the company includes YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Royal Exchange Theatre); AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON (Drum Theatre Plymouth/Barbican/Brighton Festival); THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (Royal Shakespeare Company); THE DARK PHILOSOPHERS (National Theatre Wales); SIX SEEDS (National Theatre) and CASANOVA (Lyric Hammersmith/West Yorkshire Playhouse).

The cast includes Richard Braine, Hayley Carmichael, Penelope Dimond, Dyfan Dwfor, Calum Finlay, Lisa Hammond Nick Haverson, Debbie Korley, Nitin Kundra, Carla Mendonça and Dharmesh Patel.
The creative team is completed by Laura Hopkins (design), Philip Gladwell (lighting) and Adrienne Quartly (sound).

Friday, 14 June 2013

Royal Mail in Bridgewater Vote to Strike!

115 Royal Mail workers at Bridgwater Delivery Office-members of the Communication Workers Union/CWU, have voted overwhelmingly-an 80% majority-to strike on three successive Saturdays starting midnight Saturday June 29th.
These are the immediate local issues at stake:
1. Bullying and Harassment by too many managers: we are being treated like dirt for too long and we've had enough

2. Full time duties being reduced to part time; RM say this is just for the summer but we don't believe them.
3. RM owe us £800 from previous savings which they refuse to pay out.
4. RM are breaking national agreements on consultation and negotiation and trying to ignore the CWU here, which has been a militant thorn in their side for at least 20 years.
5. RM are ripping up a local signed agreement not to 'lapse' duties.
6. RM need to remove the current Bridgwater Delivery Office Manager.
However, this dispute is in many ways a West country opening of the national dispute to stop impending Royal Mail privatisation.
The reason CWU members at Bridgwater are being bullied into working harder for less reward is so the office-like RM as a whole-can be 'slimmmed down' in terms of staff and wages, and so 'fattened up' in terms of profit, so it is a more attractive privatisation prospect.
So the fight to stop the sell-off of the UK's oldest and much loved public service starts in Somerset on June 29th!
Picket-line visitors and messages of support from FBU members welcome: we RM workers understand the death by 1000 cuts that Somerset and West Country fire fighters are suffering from, and hope that later this summer we can link up with your pensions fight and combine in a double national strike!